‘Team effort’ saves cardiac patient’s life
One day on the job, David Lossing was suddenly struck by a sore throat and tightness in his chest.
“I just didn’t feel right,” said Lossing, a restaurant manager from St. Clair County, Michigan. “I sat down and called my wife.”
Lossing’s wife, Nancy, urged her husband to call 9-1-1 immediately, even though he wasn’t experiencing any sharp, shooting pain.
“If I had told him to wait until I could get to him or we second-guessed calling 9-1-1, that would’ve been it,” said Nancy.
When paramedics arrived, Lossing’s blood pressure was 40/30 mmHg. That’s extremely low: Normal blood pressure is considered 120/80. His skin was losing color because blood wasn’t circulating in his body and oxygen wasn’t reaching his brain.
The emergency department at his regional hospital immediately reached out to the ED at Michigan Medicine, knowing Lossing was critical and in need of a higher level of care.
From that moment on, dozens of Michigan Medicine team members came together to save Lossing’s life.
Life-saving care in the air and on the ground
“Once we confirmed he was being transferred here, the emergency team got to work, operating rooms were prepped, scrub nurses, perfusionists and anesthesiologists got ready and the ICU made sure they were in position to accept him post-op,” Wang said.
The team needed to take action quickly because they knew Lossing’s diagnosis was dire — thanks to feedback from Survival Flight nurses.
“David had an acute type A aortic dissection,” Yang said.
In other words, the layers of Lossing’s aorta were pulling apart, trapping blood between them and threatening his main artery’s ability to supply his body with oxygenated blood.
“This type has a high risk of rupturing, and once it ruptures, it’s difficult to save the patient,” Yang added. “He bled from his aorta, and that blood was compressing his heart. Even if you have a strong heart, if there’s no blood circulating, that’s not compatible for life.”
Treatment for aortic tear
Without immediate intervention, Lossing probably would have died.
“When he got here, we ran him from the emergency department to the operating room,” Yang said. “Everyone moved very quickly, and across specialties we worked simultaneously to prepare for surgery. Every second counted, and we needed to be immediate but precise in every move we made.”
Within 10 minutes of arriving, Lossing was resuscitated by ED physicians and in surgery. Yang and his team performed a sternotomy and relieved the compression of the heart. Then, they performed an aortic root repair, replacing the ascending aorta and aortic arch with a complete resection of the tear.
Complications and recovery
Although the initial operation was a success, Lossing’s blood wasn’t clotting afterward.
Bryant Wu, M.D., an assistant professor of anesthesiology, worked with his team to get Lossing’s blood to clot. A fellow then sat at Lossing’s bedside all night to monitor his progress — along with the nurses and other staff members in the ICU.
Before Lossing’s 10-day stay at Michigan Medicine was through, Survival Flight staffers even made a surprise visit.
“These were the ones that helped keep me alive on the way to the hospital,” Lossing said. “I know people like to say they’re just part of the team, but a team is made up of individual people, and these people saved my life.”
Working together into the future
The teamwork on display upon Lossing’s arrival won’t stop there.
“For the rest of his life, we will all be working together to keep him healthy,” Yang said. “Our radiologists will take regular CT scans, our nurses and doctors will keep an eye on complications and our administrative staff will be checking him in and out and making sure we’re staying in touch. It’s always going to be a team effort.”
For now, Lossing is healthy and back to work.
“It’s incredible to look back and realize how many people had to take action right away,” Yang said. “But there was never any chaos. We were all under control and working toward a single goal — to keep Mr. Lossing alive. All of us should be proud that we achieved that goal.”